Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
July 11, 2016 - ECHL (ECHL)

BASEBALL

International League: The Pawtucket (RI) Red Sox, or PawSox, of the Triple-A International League are taking bids for renovations of its local stadium, possibly avoiding future relocation. Last year, the team's new ownership talked of moving to a proposed new stadium in Providence (RI), but those stadium plans never moved forward. At the time, other markets like Worcester (MA), Springfield (MA) and the suburban Boston area were mentioned as possible relocation candidates, but any new location would need to build a new stadium for the team. The stadium lease in Pawtucket runs through the 2020 season.

Empire Pro Baseball League: The new four-team independent Empire League has completed the first half of its inaugural season, but there are reports that players and staff have not been paid as promised. The Empire League was organized from the remnants of last season's North Country Baseball League, which lasted only one season, and has teams called the New Hampshire Wild (Rindge), Old Orchard Beach (ME) Surge, Sullivan (NY) Explorers and Watertown (NY) Bucks.

BASKETBALL

Elite International Basketball Association: The proposed new EIBA, which planned to have several U.S.-based teams and various international teams competing in a summertime league, has yet to begin league play that was supposed to start last month. The EIBA recently announced it will be holding round-robin tournaments across the U.S. this month involving four, six or eight teams per tournament.

American Basketball League: The ABL, which has operated with four or five Florida-based teams playing a short summertime season the past two years, did not start its 2016 season last month as planned. In February, the ABL announced plans to add a team in Greensboro (NC) for the 2016 season.

Women's Minor League Basketball Association: The proposed new eight-team WMLBA is down to only five teams as the Atlanta Breeze, NC Flex (Raleigh) and Orlando Edge are no longer listed. The WMLBA wants to become a developmental league for the Women's National Basketball Association and plans to have eight teams playing a Winter Season from October through December 2016 and a Spring Season from May to July the following year. The five remaining teams are the D.C. Bounce, Dallas Lightning, Houston Galaxy, Nashville Charge and San Antonio Troopers.

FOOTBALL

Midwest Professional Indoor Football: The MPIF recently announced two new teams called the Chicago Aztecs and Kansas City Invaders have been added for the 2017 season. The league recently completed a short inaugural season that was played in April 2016 with four teams. The MPIF previously announced two other new 2017 teams called the Midwest Knights (Hammond, IN) and the Tri-Town Titans (Kankakee County, IL).

National Indoor Football League: The NIFL, which operated across the United States from 2001 through the 2007 season, is starting to organize for a return in the spring of 2017. The league plans to have over 30 teams and will soon announce its first team that is expected to be located in Dallas.

American Indoor Football: A new team called the Vermont Bucks (Burlington) is expected to join the AIF as a 2017 expansion team. The owner of the proposed team plans to play home games at the fieldhouse on the campus of the University of Vermont. The AIF previously announced one other 2017 expansion team called the High Country Grizzlies in the Boone area of western North Carolina.

Arena Developmental League: The ownership of the Columbus (GA) Lions indoor football team, which left American Indoor Football after the 2016 season, has formed the new professional ADL that will start play in March 2017. No franchises or potential locations were announced, but the league will have some existing teams and some new markets announced in the near future.

Rebel Indoor Football League: Another new indoor football league known as the RIFL plans to start play in March 2017. The league lists two current Alabama-based teams called the Birmingham Bombers and Huntsville Avengers.

Women's Premier Football League: The proposed WPFL, which planned to start play in May 2016 with six teams based in Texas and New Mexico, never started play this season. The league will try to return next year.

American 7s Football League: The A7FL recently completed its second season of 7-on-7 full-contact football in which players wear no pads or helmets. A total of 16 teams from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland participated in an end-of-the-season championship tournament.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: The AHL announced the league alignment for the 30 National Hockey League affiliates that will be part of the 2016-17 season. With the move of the Springfield (MA) Falcons to Tucson in the off-season, the Tucson Roadrunners have been added to the Pacific Division creating a Western Conference with an eight-team Pacific Division and an eight-team Central Division. With the loss of a team from the Atlantic Division, the Eastern Conference will have a seven-team Atlantic Division and a seven-team North Division. Within the Atlantic Division, the Portland (ME) Pirates moved to the vacated Springfield market and were renamed the Springfield Thunderbirds for the 2016-17 season.

ECHL: At least two ECHL franchises are reported to be up for sale, so there was some speculation as to which teams could be on the market. A group in Portland (ME) expressed interest in bringing an existing ECHL team to the city for the 2017-18 season, since the city's American Hockey League team called the Portland Pirates moved to Springfield (MA) after the 2015-16 season.

National Women's Hockey League: The NWHL announced it will start its second season in early October 2016 and will feature the same four teams as last season - the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale (Northford) and New York Riveters. There had been talk of possible expansion into places like Toronto, Montreal or Minnesota, but that did not happen for the 2016-17 season.

Federal Hockey League: The lower-level professional FHL has expressed interest in Salisbury (MD) for a possible team. The league is said to be in early discussions with operators of the local hockey arena. The league's Dayton Demolition team is looking to rebrand under a new name for the 2016-17 season.

United States Hockey League: A proposed 7,500-seat arena for a possible team in the Tier-I junior level USHL has been added to plans for a development in the Overland Park (KS) area of Kansas City. The addition of the arena to the project has been met with initial objections due to potential noise and traffic, along with concerns about certain aspects of the project funding plan.

SOCCER

Major Arena Soccer League: The MASL plans to organize a new second division league that will begin play for the 2017-18 season at the earliest or no later than the 2018-19 season.

Canadian Soccer League: The CSL started its 2016 season in late May with an eight-team First Division and a six-team Second Division. The First Division had 12 teams last season, but lost five teams (Niagara United, SC Waterloo, Brampton City United, Burlington SC and Toronto Croatia) and added one new team called FC Ukraine United. The Second Division had ten teams last season, but lost five teams (Brampton City United, Burlington SC, Niagara United, Milton SC and Toronto Croatia FC) and added the London City team. The CSL season runs through October 2016.

Canadian Premier League: The proposed CPL plans to become a full professional soccer league with six to eight Canada-based teams starting play in 2018. As of now, Hamilton (Ontario) is the only confirmed franchise location, but the league is also considering Victoria (British Columbia), Edmonton (Alberta), Calgary (Alberta), Ottawa, Quebec, the Greater Toronto Area and the Maritimes for teams. It is uncertain if the Ottawa Fury FC and FC Edmonton of the Division-II North American Soccer League will move to the new league.

American Soccer League 2: The men's professional American Soccer League is operating a four-team ASL2 amateur-level league this summer. Two ASL2 teams called the Philadelphia Fury and Philadelphia Fury Guns are affiliated with the pro-level Philadelphia Fury and the Lancaster Lions are affiliated with the pro-level Lancaster Lions. The fourth ASL2 team is the New Jersey Paladins.

OTHER

American Rugby Premiership: The ARP, which is an elite American rugby-league competition sanctioned by USA Rugby, completed its 2015-16 season in early May with five teams from the eastern United States. Teams included the Boston Irish Wolfhounds, Boston Rugby, Life Running Eagles (Atlanta), New York Athletic Club and Old Blue of New York.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames 2014-15: "The Leagueology Almanac" , which tracks the changes in league alignments, franchise movements and team nicknames in today's sports world. The publication is currently available at www.amazon.com.

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